“I will have him, and no other.”
With her fair colouring, it was rare that Théodwyn so resembled her mother – her elder sisters had the darker hair of Morwen, and the height of Númenor, which Théodwyn had not inherited – but in that moment, Théoden knew no man could deny that the gaze of Morwen Steelsheen lived on in her youngest child’s grey eyes.
“Do you hear me, brother-mine?” Théodwyn continued, standing before him the great hall of Meduseld where he himself had wed his beloved Elfhild fifteen years before.
“I hear you, sweet sister,” he replied, which he knew as soon as he said it was the wrong thing to call her – Théodwyn’s lips thinned, grey eyes sparking in a way that reminded him of their mother moments before she demanded that he bring her a switch and smartly. “But Éomund is…” Struggling for the words, he hesitated. Éomund was a capable warrior, a competent marshal and valiant defender of the Eastfold… but he had a temper that Théoden did not like overmuch, a recklessness of anger that did not marry with the sweetest of his sisters. “I am charged with your wellbeing, sister,” he tried, “and our parents should be wroth with me if you were harmed in the choosing of your husband.”
“Harmed?” she seethed, stepping closer. “A marriage to Éomund would harm me, you say, brother-mine?” Her face twisted into an ugly scowl he’d never seen before. “I suppose you should with me to accept the offer of wedding Forlong of Lossarnach, and care nary a thought that I should be crushed in my bride bed?!”
Théoden did not laugh, though he wanted to, keeping a stern countenance on his face through sheer willpower. He, too, was a child of Morwen, after all, and matched his sister’s temper. He had often thought it was the reason he loved her best of the four, their similar spirits, but now he was tempted to say it was a curse rather than a blessing.
“You love him?” he asked.
Théodwyn nodded, once, her hands – soft hands, capable of such fine stitching that she was famed throughout Rohan and Gondor for her tapestries – balled into fists.
“You will recall the words you spoke upon the settling on my good-sister Elfhild as your queen, Théoden?” she shot back at him. “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
Théoden felt warm. I shall be celibate, or I shall have Elfhild, Father, and the throne may land as it pleases for it! His own words echoed in his head, spoken with the conviction and stubbornness of a young man incensed beyond care for his position.
“And what does Éomund say in all this?” Théoden wondered, turning to the tall man who had said nary a word since the pair had appeared before the throne.
“One heart, one home. If she is not mine, still I should be hers, and be glad of it, for I gave her my heart a long time ago, and could wish for no better keeper.”
Théoden boggled at the usually taciturn warrior; the last thing anyone would credit Éomund was a mind for poetry. And then he looked at his sister, standing beside her man, her hand linked to his by a single finger – and he knew that the radiant, if slightly smug, smile on her face was one he’d treasure for years.
“I shall miss your sweet voice in my hall, sister-mine,” he replied, slightly hoarse with the thought that she would be truly gone, then, even if Aldburg was not so far away as Gondor, “but hope that you and yours will be frequents guests from Aldburg at my hearth.”
“And you at mine, Théoden Cyning,” Éomund said, bowing deeply.
Théodwyn’s smile shone brighter than her golden hair, and suddenly she was in his arms. “Thank you, brother,” she whispered, pressing a kiss to his temple. “I love you.”
“I wish you gladness in your marriage, sweet Théodwyn,” he replied, “now and for all your days.” Cupping her cheek, he kissed her forehead once, giving her a final hug as his little sister, and sent her towards her future, watching the way Éomund’s face transformed into cautious joy when she strode to him, taking his hand.
He truly does love her.
The thought pleased him, bringing a melancholy smile to his face as he watched them together, feeling the spirit of his beloved Elfhild stand beside him, almost able to feel her hand squeeze his with approval.